Dr. Tomorrow


10 Sept 2000

While the western world talks and works with DNA in science labs and in
drug and chemistry research departments, at least one innovative artist in
the developing world has other ideas. You haven't seen the envelope
stretch like this before.

Not far from the Rio beach that made The Girl From Impanema famous, the
mind of Brazilian artist Edwuardo Kac's (pronounced "cats") is dancing.
Kac's has decided that DNA is more than just a medical, legal and social
tool. He believes it also belongs to artists. Just as artists on palettes blend
paints, now they can mix DNA -- to create new works of art.

Introducing Alba: a pulsating, light-up-the-night genuine live bunny that's
never seen the inside of a Playboy Club. Easter will never be the same

Purists will scream that
artists are creating
monsters God never
ordered. But the Christian
god of creation said-- "go
forth and multiply". Alba is
the latest in the
multiplication of ideas and

Such innovation in a small
mammal suggests the
future may bring better
animals and more diversity
through transgenetics
and enable them to live out their ultimate destiny eons earlier than
previously believed possible.

Recently, in the Arab Emirate of Dubai, using old cross-breeding
techniques, scientists created Rama, the cama, a cross between a camel
and a lama (born during Ramadan the Muslim Holy Month). Is this the start
of something new? A race to beyond the stars that might make space
travel seem restricting.

Humans constantly require new frontiers, which challenge the mind and
develop opportunities never dreamed of. A spark to ignite, once again, as
occurred during the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution,
something that creates new initiatives, sets new goals, and completely
turns upside-down traditional beliefs on the limitations of man.

Is Kac's "invention" more similar to the discovery of insulin by Banting and
Best in 1922, than it is to a distortion of the "natural"?

The birth of an albino, in man or other animals is an accident of nature,
unexpected but no less divine. Alba may be a new revelation. New trails
lead to new destinations.

After this startling green glow-in-the-dark rabbit, what might follow? We are
already seeking minute forms of nanotechnology within the realm of the
molecules and atoms -- items one-billionth of a metre in size. Not that long
ago, the discovery of strange mini-creatures in drops of water led to
learning how to protect our bodies from disease within. Diseases caused
by micro-organisms remained mysteries until the invention of the
microscope. Doctors use such techniques as blood tests to see the
enemy within. That is accepted. Alba, may teach us a lot with her
"difference". Diversity will likely increase during our tomorrows.

Artists are frequently regarded as explorers for society. Not unlike the
lookout in the crow's nest high aboard the Christopher Columbus flagship
Santa Maria that discovered (for Europeans) North America in 1492. Avant
garde artists look ahead to see what may be instead of accepting what is.
Society sometimes makes their struggle long and arduous before they
become pampered and famous for squinting to see the future.

In one of my columns years ago, I caught glimpses of Alba:

"CAS-CAR (Computer-Aided Selection Computer-Aided
Reproduction). The implications are so vast that any
attempts to forbid or regulate such developments will
quickly be passed by, as creations rapidly move from
designer pets to superior humans."

Welcome to tomorrow! Your daughter may marry an animal, instead of the
one she is going out with now.

Sometimes when I check my past writings I feel like I have just discovered a
new Rosetta Stone or bumped into the monolith in the Arthur C. Clarke
movie; 2001, A Space Odyssey. I'll run this column again in Digital Diary.

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